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How do I start life at 43, asks Vishnu Tiwari who spent 20 years in jail in false rape case

Vishnu Tiwari was jailed in 2001 and convicted of rape and under the SC/ST Act in 2003. The Allahabad HC acquitted him last week after deeming that the charges were false.  

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New Delhi: When Vishnu Tiwari, 43, was imprisoned in 2001, in what the Allahabad High Court has now deemed a false rape case, he had never seen a mobile phone in his life. Those were the days of the basic Nokia models with even incoming calls charged to the minute. 

His village of Silawan, Tiwari added, was a sleepy hamlet in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district. 

Twenty years on, the 43-year-old has returned to a cacophony of phones and bustling markets, not just in Silawan but across Lalitpur district. 

Over the past few days — since his release from Agra Central Jail on 3 March — Tiwari has been coming to terms with a “changed world”.  

“I had only heard of phones back then; there were just STD booths. I had never seen mobiles, only heard that they exist,” he said. “Everything has changed now, my village, my district, it feels like it’s a whole new world. The markets and others have changed so much.”

As if making sense of the world two decades later isn’t tough enough, Tiwari said he has little means to survive in it, and has lost most of his family members. 

The 43-year-old’s father, Rameshwar Tiwari, died in 2013, and within the year, his mother Ram Shakhi also passed away. Two of his brothers also died from cardiac arrests in this period.

He attended none of the funerals.   

“What is worse for a son than not being able to see his dying parents’ faces one last time?” he asked. “What is more unfortunate than not being able to perform or witness the last rites of family members? 

“I am illiterate. I kept in touch with my family through letters whenever someone who read and wrote one for me, but on the days when I needed it the most, when my parents died, I couldn’t even make a phone call home,” he said, sobbing on the phone. 

The family’s economic condition also deteriorated over the years. 

“We owned six to seven buffaloes back in 2000, now we have none. Our ancestral lands also had to be sold off to pay lawyers,” he told ThePrint.  

“How will I start my life now at 43 — with no education, no skill set and hardly any family around,” he added. “I cannot even marry, my only brother is now a monk.” 

Tiwari’s home at Silawan village in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district | By special arrangement
Tiwari’s home at Silawan village in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district | By special arrangement

A false rape case

Tiwari was 23 when in September 2000 he was first arrested based on an FIR filed by the woman, her husband and father-in-law.  

He was accused of sexually assaulting, raping and beating her when she was five months pregnant. 

He was subsequently booked for rape and atrocities under the SC/ST Act. Tiwari secured bail but was arrested again in 2001. He spent two years as an undertrial before a Lalitpur trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2003. 

Tiwari had challenged his conviction by a trial court in 2005 but his petition was deemed defective, in that all of the required documents weren’t in place. It remained that way for 16 years. 

The Allahabad High Court noted this in its judgment acquitting him.

“Most unfortunate, aspect of this litigation is that the appeal was preferred through jail,” the order said. “The matter remained as a defective matter for a period of 16 years and, therefore, we normally do not mention defective appeal numbers but we have mentioned the same.”

The high court also noted that the medical evidence did not show any sign of forcible intercourse. “We find one more fact that despite allegation that rape is committed as alleged by the prosecutrix, there are no injuries on the private part of the lady, who is a fully grown up lady and who was pregnant and is said to have been thrashed,” the court said. “Further, there was a motive on the part of complainant that there was land dispute between the parties.

“In our finding, the medical evidence goes to show that the doctor did not find any sperm,” the court added. “The doctor categorically opined that no signs of forcible sexual intercourse were found.

“In view of the facts and evidence on record, we are convinced that the accused has been wrongly convicted, hence, the judgment and order impugned is reversed and the accused is acquitted,” the court order further stated. 

On his part, Tiwari said the case was the result of dispute over land and animals. “It was a fight over our lands and animals. I have never spoken to the woman, just knew her as a bahu. They just wanted money through the harijan act,” he said. “I never imagined that due to their greed, I would have to stay in jail for 20 years.” 

Days in prison

Recounting his days in prison, Tiwari said he first marked the days on the walls of his cell but gave up as it got him depressed. 

“I would work hard everyday so that the struggle to sleep decreases,” he said. “In the first couple of years, I would often make lines and then cross them to mark days on the walls of the cell, but stopped after a while. It began demotivating me.” 

The 43-year-old also said that many times, he felt that he should die in jail rather than languish in there for so long. Mata Rani would come in my dreams sometimes and ask me not to lose hope but on some days I would feel choked inside,” he said.

“I tried screaming and crying but it never got better inside the prison. Your soul dies everyday painfully. In these 20 years, I have wanted to die so many times.

“I am 43 now, almost half my life has passed by and I have nothing to look forward to,” he added.

Taking suo motu cognisance of Tiwari’s 20 years of incarceration, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the chief secretary and director general of police, Uttar Pradesh, asking for a detailed report of the matter, observing that this seems to be a non-application of Section 433 CrPc. 

According to Section 433, the government can commute sentences. The NHRC has also sought details of the action against public servants responsible in the case and steps taken for rehabilitation of Tiwari. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: 3-year-old dies after UP hospital ‘discharges her without stitches for not clearing dues’


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  1. Something similar is happening with someone very close to me. They have been framed by the UP police just on the basis of their caste!

    NOT EVEN KIDDING! A country like India which has been fighting its way to release itself from the clams of racial and social monsters like caste discrimination, has been forced to hang its shame in despair because our centre wants to instate a continuous domination without any opposition.
    More than being sad I am angry at the state of affairs.
    My innocent relative and I am saying this with all my heart and faith has been a government servant for more than 30 years with not even a notice being issued on his name and a recipient of Presidents award for his deeds but today he’s been in jail for more than 2 months! We’re powerless because even the judiciary is no more a separate entity!
    Seems like this country and its government cares more about favorable officials rather than honorable ones. I am gonna be putting up my name as anonymous because unlike every other person who speaks up I don’t want to land up in JAIL as yet!

  2. The country should hang its head in shame. It punished severely a man for a crime which was not proved against him. Remember if it had happened to him it can happen with anyone.

  3. How come there’s no news about what would be the punishment to be meted out to the lady/family, who filed the fraudulent rape charges and made a mockery out of the justice system and destroyed an entire family?
    If a model punishment is not served out to such unscrupulous people, how does the Indian Justice machinery plan to curb such acts that will happen in the future too?
    How come nothing is done for this man who lost most of his productive years and family?

  4. The press is the root cause of this. When the Print employs fake, fraudulent & concocted grievance inventors & peddlers like Dlilip Mandal then such atrocities are bound to happen in the society. So extraordinary is the casteist political system, that no politician has mustered courage to visit this hapless man as if even a visit on humanitarian grounds will result in loss of votes of the most privileged community. The matter gets worse because he is a Hindu Brahmin.

  5. This is an independent judicial system that is beyond questioning as some people would want it. The judicial system remaining independent does this only. Some vested interests do not want reform in Indian judiciary, Judiciary should be reformed before it becomes redundant or obsolete in the eyes of common man.

  6. This woman and family should be punished asked to pay compensation to the man. Man or woman, high caste or low caste no life should be unjustly tortured.

  7. This is exactly what should not happen in the judicial system as per our jurisprudence. An innocent should not be punished even if a thousand guilty are not punished. An utterly innocent, naive person has been booked under the SC/ST Atrocities Act with an ulterior motive of taking advantage for a dispute over Land and Animals. How can the victim Vishnu Tiwari be compensated by the valuable lost years of his life ? How could the court not see the motive in the absence of valid proof particularly the Medical Report of alleged rape ? Nonsensical. This is exactly the reason why the Supreme Court had opined that no person should be arrested for the alleged atrocities unless an enquiry is held and adequate evidence is adduced to substantiate the charges. Who will compensate the innocent victim and how ? No one, not even God can. Tells upon the inefficiency of the system. Shameful.

  8. The one putting false cases should be punished and shall pay for this suffering.
    Very few media houses highlight such stories as it is against feminism.

  9. He should be given a compensation by UP govt of Rs. 5 lakh at least, maybe Rs. 10 lakh, to start his life again.

    Journalists should give some details, such as bank account of victims like these, so that readers can contribute some money to them.

  10. Nothing has changed, even now many are falsely accused under Sc/ST act. Worst thing to happen to India was this act. Vishnu tiwari, being a true brahmin, never lost hope in Mata Rani.

  11. The legal system needs to apologize to him for the gross injustices, pay him a generous compensation, and try and resettle him!
    Secondly, fix the country’s jurisprudence so that people are always “innocent until proven guilty” — and certain sections of society can’t use laws to corner certain other sections of society. Thats what Pakistani blasphemy laws do and we make fun of them — don’t do that to yourself.

  12. We, as a society, atone for the injustice meted out to this 43 year old man. The Human Rights organizations must also sue the government and secure full compensation for him to start a productive life. The case makes it so shamefully clear that a false case of such a serious nature can be slapped on any innocent party.

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